The goal of Our Collective Journey is to connect people with people.
Strengthening our Community through the Power of our Shared Experience
As Our Collective Journey grows, our intent is to just put people in contact with people. The first step in any form of recovery is really acknowledging what it is a person may be suffering from. It has been our experience that being able to relate to someone else's story is a significant bridge to self-awareness.
What Makes Our Collective Journey Different?
A question that we are often asked is “What makes Our Collective Journey different than what’s being done in community already?” Our Collective Journey’s strength comes from the power of shared experience, but we also bring a lot more than that to the table!
One of the most important pieces that Our Collective Journey prides itself on is the authentic, honest connections with individuals rooted in shared experience. An OCJ peer support draws from their experiential knowledge – the happenings, emotions, and insights of their personal lived experience - as they listen to, interact with and support peers. Through our own personal experiences and hearing experiences of others, we understand that often times peers who are suffering in silence are not ready to walk through the doors of a professional agency. By sharing these stories of hope, individuals have a chance to explore and resonate with unique parts of each real-life story. Every time someone shares their story, they help erase the shame for others which helps them not feel so alone in their pain.
We have all felt alone in our lives at one point or another.
All OCJ peer supports have experienced their own personal darkness at some point in their lives. Each of these peers are ready to share their experience, of how they moved through that darkness and into a new light, with the next individual who reaches out. These stories of lived experience may include various professional supports, coping mechanisms, support groups, and other tools that are unique to each story. OCJ’s diverse peer support network encompasses individuals who have found their way into recovery from not only addiction and mental health, but many other real life experiences. At OCJ, a number of the sharing peer supports are also trained professionals that keep the mandate of “do no harm” at the forefront of all connections. OCJ peer supports are ready to share their experiences at any hour of any day. This is one thing that is difficult to duplicate in a professional agency due to the constraints of hours, regulations, and other agency policies. OCJ approaches all of its connections from a person centred approach and doesn’t just say this on paper. We prove it with each interaction by meeting people where they are at (physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually); then continue towards the overarching end goal of empowering peers as they explore possibilities and find their path towards a healthier and happier outcome.
Our Collective Journey recognizes the importance of continually collaborating with community professionals in order to expedite referrals when the individual is ready to take the next step in their personal journey. After building these personal connections, OCJ members can assist the individual in finding what options are best for them moving forward. OCJ also recognizes the mental health continuum is a range having mental health and mental illness at the two opposite ends. As situations improve or deteriorate, the person’s position can shift dramatically. OCJ recognizes that certain situations will require more than peer support and will connect the peer with the appropriate resources to meet their needs. At that point, the OCJ peer supports will continue to walk with the individual into whatever professional agency, support group, etc., strengthening the value of “You are not alone!”
Additionally, Our Collective Journey is very interested in helping erase the stigma that is so prevalent within the population. The preconceived thoughts/images, involving individuals who are impacted with these stigmatic issues, are something that needs to be addressed, explored, and reframed. Almost every individual at OCJ has experienced the oppressive weight of stigma at some point in their personal journey. Stigma is a colossal ingredient of what keeps people from reaching out for help. This has to change! Many individuals at OCJ have “removed their masks” and stepped out from behind the heavy curtain of shame. They are ready to share and discuss their experiences in order to normalize these VERY REAL life issues!
Today I can say I am a SURVIVOR! I have learned and come to believe that my life has meaning and I no longer have to wear those proverbial masks to just fit into the world around me. I was in the sixth grade when I began to see my first counselors and psychologists because I had feelings of loss and extreme aloneness which caused me to self harm. I had my first experience with alcohol that summer and all the voices in my head that told me I was worthless, and nothing went away. For the first time I had peace in my life from all the chaos in my mind. I was a binge drinker who was able to maintain good grades and excel in my athletic endeavors throughout junior high school, high school and collage. I do not know the exact moment that drinking and drug use stopped working to quiet the voices in my mind but the thing that work for so long was now turning on me and that shame, blame and guilt of this life style became so overwhelming that taking my own life became a very real reality for me. I wanted different in my life for a long time however how do I change when I do not even know what the problem is within me. I reached out to multiple government agencies for help and received the best support that they could offer. All of this support was never enough to stop the self hate and immense aloneness that was eroding my soul and it drove me to the doorstep of death. All of that changed on December 19, 2014 when I had to courage to walk into a 12-step meeting. I heard for the first time that I had a disease, and it was not my CHOICE. For the first time I felt like I was not alone. I have since dedicated my life to sharing my experience with the world so that anyone who may be suffering the way I did KNOWS THEY ARE NOT ALONE. If you are reading this and any of this testimonial resonates with you know that you matter and YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
On the outside, it always looked like I had it together. All through school, hockey, and eventually the oil/gas industry, I excelled. The picture looked great to everyone viewing it. I was checking all the boxes my authoritative father and society had told me I needed to check in order to be successful. Behind that picture, I was empty. I was broken. I felt alone. Alcohol was always a destructive part of my story, but the game changer was when I found hard drugs….
After trying to and failing to quit using multiple times on my own, with the guilt and shame piling up and not knowing any other way out, I attempted to die by suicide. After a journey through treatment, a subsequent lengthy relapse led to more shame…hopelessness…darkness everywhere. I attempted to take my life a second time because I could not reach out for fear of showing weakness! During my second pass through treatment I finally sat across from an addiction worker with a powerful lived experience story of his own. This was my first time experiencing authentic empathy and vulnerability from a male. My first real, meaningful connection with someone who had been where I was. Day by day we started tackling the shame that drove my addiction and the degrading behaviors that went with it. It was also the beginning of a spiritual connection that was always a huge vacuum in my life. I gave myself my word I would try every recovery focused suggestion for one year and at that one-year mark I would decide if I wanted to continue this new journey. That decision turned out to be life changing and put me on the path to a solid recovery. The decision to go ALL-IN on my recovery has opened doors that I couldn’t have dreamt possible. I have found a new way of living. Recovery has given me new relationships with my sons, a loving new life partner, and a way to continue helping others personally and professionally with the focus on carrying the hope-filled light of recovery into their darkest moments. “If I would have gotten everything I wished for at the start of this recovery journey, I would have sold myself extremely short” –recovery friend
From a very young age I knew I was a little different. I recall as a child holding my breath until I almost passed out just to slow down the chatter in my mind. I didn’t know it yet but that was the first indicator that I was suffering from the disease of addiction. As I grew up despite these feelings I was successful, school, socially, athletically, professionally, with the opposite sex. I appeared to have everything most people would want… But I was still empty inside. Thoughts of loneliness and self harm crept in. I discovered very early that drugs and alcohol numbed out this empty loneliness. I would use this vices to cope with life for a lone time… and it worked. Until it didn’t. I got to a point where regardless of there being drugs or alcohol in my system the feelings remained. My morals and values eroded quickly from that point and were replaced with guilt and shame, the weight of which were crippling. My actions and behaviors had veered so drastically from the man I wanted to be that the very real option of suicide seemed to make the most sense. I believe my father-in-law realized this was the direction I was choosing and he took action. I was sitting at a government run mental health office that day. The one time in my life I was willing to reach out I was asked to make an appointment and come back in six weeks. Later that day with a fully formed plan to take my life I met someone with shared experience. We spoke for hours. For the first time in my life I was honest, vulnerable and most importantly I didn’t feel alone. The next few weeks of my life redefined who and what I was. My life was saved that day. Now I feel I am responsible to carry that message forward. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Having someone who truly understood how I felt because they had felt it, faced it and survived it, and had gone on to thrive in life truly saved me from the brink of suicide.